Legendary silent film director Cecil B. DeMille didn't much alter the way he made movies after sound came in, and this 1956 biblical drama is proof of that. While graced with such 1950s niceties as VistaVision and Technico... more »lor, The Ten Commandments (DeMille had already filmed an earlier version in 1923) has an anachronistic, impassioned style that finds lead actors Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner expressively posing while hundreds of extras writhe either in the presence of God's power or from orgiastic heat. DeMille, as always, plays both sides of the fence as far as sin goes, surrounding Heston's Moses with worshipful music and heavenly special effects while also making the sexy action around the cult of the Golden Calf look like fun. You have to see The Ten Commandments to understand its peculiar resonance as an old-new movie, complete with several still-impressive effects such as the parting of the Red Sea. --Tom Keogh« less
"While Cecil B. DeMille's directorial skills were sometimes too rooted in the more grandiose style of the silent era, he CERTAINLY was ALWAYS a master showman, and his 1956 remake of "The Ten Commandments" is a whale of a show! Both pious and profane, posturing and sincere, it isn't great history, but it abounds in spectacle. While he was in poor health during the filming (suffering a seizure that was either a stroke or mild heart attack, while working under the 130-degree Egyptian sun), his distinctive 'style' was never more in evidence, with broad, overwrought performances, dazzling costumes and sets, monumental climaxes, and morals that are repeatedly hammered home. In 'classic' DeMille, there ARE no 'grays', everything is 'good' or 'evil', and 'evil' WILL be punished! Watching the film, you'll either enjoy the 'ride', or you'll groan, again and again. Personally, I love it, even with it's unintentional(?) campiness!
Among my favorite 'so bad it's FUN' moments are 'Rameses' Yul Brynner and 'Nefretiri' Anne Baxter's frequent use of "Moses, Moses..." whenever he predicts something dire (Brynner looks like he can barely keep a straight face, uttering the phrase); 'Sephora' Yvonne De Carlo's stoic, yet impassioned pitch to Moses to marry her, always looking away ('into the future', I presume), when comparing her assets to Nefretiri's; 'Dathan' Edward G. Robinson's entire performance (nearly epic hamminess from one of America's finest film actors); Woody Strode's Ethiopian 'Princess' companion, who praises Moses' kindness with so much heat and honey that Nefretiri suspects he was fooling around, down south; and Sir Cedric Hardwicke's 'Sethi', turning an Egyptian Pharoah into a world-weary lovable executive-type (one can't help but wonder how Rameses could be HIS son!)
Compared to Baxter's scenery-chewing, and Brynner's posturing, Charlton Heston's portrayal of Moses is so understated that he's often been criticized as 'wooden' in the role, which is unfair; while DeMille frequently posed him to match classic statues and paintings, his complete earnestness in the role, combined with his sheer physical presence, keeps him from receding into the backround of the spectacle that surrounds him. Despite thousands of Egyptian extras portraying Hebrews during the astonishing 'Exodus' sequence, filling the screen, Heston always grabs and holds your attention; certainly no actor has ever been a more memorable Moses!
The film has some very obvious merits; many of the special effects (particularly the 'Angel of Death' vapor, and the massive parting of the Red Sea) are still astonishing, today; Elmer Bernstein's score is an often 'over-the-top' joy to listen to; and the cast includes some very entertaining supporting players, including Nina Foch, Vincent Price, and DeMille's longtime associate, Henry Wilcoxon.
Taken as spectacle, as a grand entertainment for the senses, "The Ten Commandments" is quite a show, and it's continued popularity over the past half-century is proof that many are still captivated by it.
Cecil B. DeMille, master showman, knew his audience!"
Spellbinding. . .
D. Mikels | Skunk Holler | 06/08/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Okay. I admit it. Watching this Biblical epic, when it was a mainstay on ABC each Easter evening for some 30 years, I practically had the whole script memorized. . .even knew when Anne Baxter, as over-eager Nefretiri, would slide into a wickedly wonderful pattern of over-acting. ("Moses. . ." she would coo, "take me in your arms. . .") I must have seen THE TEN COMMANDMENTS dozens of times, and yet, each year, I plopped my carcass on the couch on Easter evening, popcorn and suds in tow, and watched Cecil B. DeMille's 4-plus hour epic, completely mesmerized and entertained.
All of us know the story: a once-great Egyptian prince leads his true people, the Hebrews, into freedom from four centuries of slavery and bondage. It is a great story, as four books of the Old Testament aptly, well, attest. Yet what makes this flick truly wonderful, impressive, and fun to watch, is the scope and grand scale of DeMille's 1956 epic--from the awesome vistas of Egypt, portrayed on a blue screen in some Hollywood studio, to the blatantly corny, often laughable, dialogue and actions of its characters (a distant reflection of the silent film icon who dominates this picture). Accordingly, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS, in particular, this DVD Special Collector's Edition, is an absolute blast for film buffs thirsty for more trivia and knowledge regarding one of Hollywood's alltime classics.
Here, in the wonderful commentaries that accompany the film, "The Ten Commandments" student and author Katherine Orrison furnishes an incredible, interesting, and overwhelming avalanche of information. For instance: Did you know that DeMille's first choice for Queen Nefretiri was not Anne Baxter, but Audrey Hepburn? Yet, unfortunately, Hepburn lacked the figure to fill out the silk gowns so prevalent for her character, so Baxter got the nod. And. . .William Holden, not Yul Brynner, was pegged to play Rameses. . .yet Bill didn't want to have his head shaved, while Brynner was an international star following his clean-shaven skullcap in the "King And I." Brynner looked "Egyptian"; he got the part, Holden was dispatched.
And I loved the "diaper pen" disclosure of infant Fraser Heston, who, of course, is Charlton Heston's son, and who played the baby Moses. I've watched this movie, again, dozens of times, but I never noticed the glistening diaper pen on sturdy Fraser's diaper, as the baby laid in his willowy basket, until a giggling Orrison brought it to my attention. Yep, there it is; yet DeMille was on a tight schedule. No time to go back and correct.
In fact, I did not realize that DeMille, 75 when this film was made, suffered a devastating heart attack during production--a setback that threatened to bring the entire project to its knees, before his ambitious daughter filled in for her father, for three short days, before DeMille returned to navigate THE TEN COMMANDMENTS to its historical conclusion. This is good stuff, and Orrison furnishes minute details of just about everything in spellbinding fashion.
So, although Chuck and the gang no longer dominate ABC entertainment on Easter evenings, THE TEN COMMANDMENTS still dominates the hallowed tier of epic lexicons. This movie, after some 50 years, continues to uplift and entertain; and this collector's edition, with its objective grasp of the facts, merely enhances the viewing experience. --D. Mikels, Author, WALK-ON
FINALLY, GREAT EXTRAS
Robin Simmons | Palm Springs area, CA United States | 03/19/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The second DVD release of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 landmark film THE TEN COMMANDMENTS -- Special Collector's Edition (Paramount) has all the extras you expected from the first. Charlton Heston hears God's voice and obeys bringing law and light and freedom to slaves. Elmer Bernstein's terrific score, great production design, still nifty effects, a six-part production documentary and a highly detailed commentary make this one for the library."
Classic film, but is it worth the upgrade?
Lugubrious DBB | Ottawa, OH USA | 03/17/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is little I can say that will add to the discussion of Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 VistaVision classic "The Ten Commandments." Love it or hate it, it is impossible to rank the film as anything less than a monumental chapter in the history of cinema. As for the DVD, the question posed is this: Is the new 50th Anniversary Edition worth the upgrade? The answer depends on your circumstances. If you have never purchased the film on DVD or own only the bare-bones 1999 DVD edition, then I would highly recommend picking up Paramount's newest release of the film. In addition to the 1956 classic (presented in anamorphic widescreen; note to Amazon.com editors: the aspect ratios of VistaVision films are 1.85:1, not 2.20:1 as claimed above), the DVD offers six featurettes detailing various aspects of the film's production, audio commentary by DeMille historian Katherine Orrison, and three trailers, including the 1956 "Making Of" trailer featuring DeMille himself. This three disc set also includes the first DVD release of DeMille's 1923 silent film version of "The Ten Commandments" in black and white and in its original Academy Standard (1.33:1) aspect ratio; the film also features commentary by Orrison. However, if you own the 2004 Special Collector's Edition release, there is nothing in this set you do not already have, except for the silent film. There are no new special features in this set, and the transfer is identical to the 2004 release. If you own the 2004 DVD, I would recommend saving your money unless you are eager to own the original silent film. For those who do not own any DVD edition of "The Ten Commandments," I highly recommend picking up a copy of this set; it offers the best opportunity to view a true Hollywood masterpiece."
Paramount is Short-Changing Movie Buffs with this one
B. G. Carroll | Liverpool, England, UK | 05/09/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Like many admirers of DeMille, I was delighted when this 50th Anniversary Edition appeared but then, profoundly disappointed with what it contains. This movie has had two previous DVD releases and to my eyes, the presentation here is not an improvement on earlier outings.
Unlike Warners magnificent restoration of THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD, GONE WITH THE WIND and WIZARD OF OZ (amng others) which were digitally restored, frame by frame, Paramount has merely assembled the best archive print it can and remixed the soundtrack.
As for the "extras", surely a film which was in production & pre-production for almost 5 years & cost $13 million to make , had a ton of archive materials - photos, stills, memos, storyboards etc- that could have been included? The documentary seemed underproduced and cheaply done. Where was Debra Paget? Where was Nina Foch? Where was Yvonne De Carlo? All major players in the film and still very much alive! What great memories they would have had to share! Instead, we get an old interview with Heston and two minor bitpart players (one, Eugene Mazzola who played Ramses son, offers little as he was only 12 at the time!). And what about Clint Walker? Every time he makes an appearance as a guard (which is often), we are told this by the irritating commentator, as though it was some momentous event - well, if so, why didn't they interview him? He's a nice guy & loves talking about his career.
So, Paramount, I am giving the DVD set just 3 stars but only because it is good to finally have the silent version available at last. But given the fact that De Mille's own private archive is extensive and comprehensive I am surprised the De Mille Estate was not more fully involved in this.
Three DVDs in a matter of 8 years seems to me to be milking the cow without any effort. Will there be a Super Collectors' Edition next year? If so, I hope it's an improvement on this! An opportunity missed! "